East Swanson Dock, 1998

Looking through some old archives and found these, taken at East Swanson Dock, Melbourne, 1998.
I thought I would post these today, on the day that the NSW government passes new anti-protest laws, which have earned the ire of civil libertarians, environmentalists, Aboriginal rights activists and those concerned about the extension of police, government and corporate powers. These laws are ostensibly aimed at preventing protests against CSG and other mining but also target much broader civil, community and industrial activity. Aboriginal communities have stated that the laws will specifically prevent them from accessing their ancestral lands. The laws also coincide with controversial 457 visas recently being granted to foreign labour crewing coastal shipping routes, displacing local workers.
1998 represents the year of one of the most significant industrial disputes in Australia - perhaps the last major workforce dispute in this country - when during the Howard years, waterside workers went on strike around the country, the largest and most prolonged being the picket at the Patrick operated East Swanson Dock in Melbourne. Patrick stevedores had secretly trained then current and ex-military personnel in Dubai to break the strike. In April 1998, large contingents of police were sent to the dock. In response, thousands of unionists descended on the waterfront. The dispute and picket lasted months, eventually resulting in the maintenance of union presence on the docks, but also signaling a major decline of union power in Australia.
Here, some light-hearted moments in between the high tension as workers - young and old, men and women - practice their picketing technique in expectation of a police crackdown.
Scratchy black and white 35mm negs, shot on an Olympus OM-2n.